Eleanor Dumont

eleanor-dumontEleanor Dumont, also known as ‘Madame Moustache’ because of a growth of dark facial hair on her upper lip in later life, was a notorious, if slightly mysterious, gambler in the American Old West. Born Simone Jules in 1829, Dumont claimed to be a French refugee, but may have hailed from somewhere in the Mississippi Delta, possibly New Orleans. In any event, during the California Gold Rush, or shortly afterwards, Dumont had the resources to open her own gambling establishment, ‘Vingt-et-un’ – billed as the ‘best gambling emporium in northern California’ – on Broad Street, Nevada City.

Later, she sold the business and travelled from one boom town to the next, setting up gambling tables in hotels throughout the West. After a few years, she met, and married, Jack McKnight, a cattleman and small-time gambler, and together they bought a cattle ranch in Carson City, Nevada. However, after a few months, McKnight sold the ranch and disappeared, leaving Dumont destitute. She eventually ended up in Bodie, California – billed as ‘the toughest town in the West’ – where, having borrowed $300 to set up a gambling table, she proceeded to lose every cent and committed suicide shortly afterwards.

Lottie Deno

Lottie_Deno-180x300Lottie Deno, otherwise known as ‘Lottie Dinero’ or simply ‘The Poker Queen’ – her real name was believed to be Carlotta Thompkins – was an infamous female gambler in the American Old West. Born in Kentucky in 1844, Deno was introduced to gambling by her father – a wealthy tobacco plantation owner and racehorse breeder – at an early age. By the age of 16 she was already a skilled card player and, two years later, following the death of her father in the American Civil War, was sent to Detroit, Michigan in search of better opportunities.

In Detroit, Deno met Johnny Golden, a jockey who had ridden for her father, and together they worked their trade on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers until 1863, when they went their separate ways with a view to reuniting in San Antonio, Texas at a later date. Reunite they did, but not until six years later, by which time Deno was a house gambler at the University Club and had met Frank Thurmond, whose family owned the establishment.

Thurmond subsequently killed a man during a card game and headed to Fort Griffin, in West Texas, where he was joined by Deno, who became a house gambler at the Bee Hive Saloon. In that capacity, she once reputedly won $3,000 from John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday and, in so doing, provided the inspiration for the fictional character Laura Denbow, played by the ‘Queen of Technicolor’, Rhonda Fleming, in the 1957 film ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’.

Maria Gertrudis Barcelo

Maria-Gertrudis-Barcelo-300x171Maria Gertrudis Barcelo, otherwise known as ‘Doña Tules’, ‘Madame La Tules’ or simply ‘La Tules’, was one of the most infamous women in the history of New Mexico. Born in the Mexican state of Sonora in 1800, Barcelo moved north to the village of Tome in what is now New Mexico, but at the time was part of Mexico, with her family in 1821. She married late, by traditional standards, at the age of 23; two years later, in 1825, she and her husband, Manuel Antonio Sisneros, established a gambling operation at a mining camp in the Ortiz Mountains, near Santa Fe.

A decade or so later, Barcelo bought a lavish gambling hall and saloon on Burro Alley in Santa Fe, aptly named Barcelo Palace, which soon became a favourite with the fashionable society of the regional capital of Nuevo Mejico. No mean gambler herself, Barcelo was particularly skilled at Monte – a card game played with the traditional Baraja española or ‘Spanish deck’ – and reputedly made vast sums of money from her clientele. During the Mexican-American War, from 1846 to 1848, U.S. forces occupied Santa Fe and, paradoxically, while acknowledging Barcelo for her influence on the local population and even accepting her offers of financial support, treated her with a level of contempt.

Jennifer Tilly

jennifer-tillyBorn Jennifer Ellen Chan, Academy Award-nominated actress and voice actress Jennifer Tilly is probably best known as the murderous doll Tiffany Valentine Ray, a.k.a. ‘The Bride of Chucky’, in the ‘Child’s Play’ franchise and as the voice of Bonnie Swanson in ‘Family Guy’.

However, Tilly has the distinction of the being the first ‘celebrity’ player to win a World Series of Poker (WSOP) event, collecting $158,335 in prize money and a WSOP bracelet for beating 600 opponents in the $1,000 Ladies Only Event – No Limit Hold’em at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in June, 2005. In September, 2005, she also collected $25,000 for winning World Poker Tour (WPT) Ladies Night No Limit Hold’em – an invitational event with just six invitees – at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles.

Despite stating that, at one point, she was more interested in poker than acting, Tilly announced her retirement from poker, as a career, in 2008, saying that she intended to treat the game ‘more like a hobby’. Nevertheless, Tilly has total live earnings in excess of $1 million and continues to play, albeit more sporadically than was once the case, in the WSOP and elsewhere on the poker circuit. Tilly has been in a relationship with professional poker player Phil ‘The Unabomber’ Laak since 2004.

Vanessa Selbst

Vanessa-SelbstBrooklyn-born Vanessa Selbst is a former full-time professional poker player who officially ‘retired’, after a 12-year career, at the end of 2017 and embarked upon a new career as a hedge fund trader with investment management firm Bridgewater Associates.On New Year’s Eve, 2017, Selbst tweeted that she was ‘parting ways with PokerStars and moving on from poker in general’, but subsequently played in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event – from which she made an early exit – in 2018, much to the consternation of some detractors within the poker community.

Nevertheless, Selbst remains the most successful female poker player of all time, with three WSOP bracelets and $11.85 million, in live earnings alone, to her name. She also has the distinction of being the only female player to be ranked number one on the Global Poker Index. She is, far and away, the top female poker player according to the all-time money list, over $5.5 million ahead of her nearest pursuer, Kathy ‘Pokerkat’ Liebert. Despite failing to cash, at all, in 2018 and tournament winnings of just $8,231 in 2017, Selbst still ranks 62nd on the all-time money list.